Here are the results of the first-ever reader poll on the RyanSchultz.com blog. (I decided to publish the results a day early.) I asked you which social VR spaces and virtual worlds you had a user account on. Thank you to everybody who responded to the survey!
Please note that this was not in any way a scientific poll. It was simply a quick and easy way to get a sense of how many of my readers have accounts on the various social VR spaces and virtual worlds. Here is a detailed summary of the poll results.
UPDATE 6:51 p.m.: Later in the evening, after another four votes had been cast, I took a screenshot of a bar chart display of the reader poll responses, which might be a little easier to read than the pie chart:
Reader poll answers were widely spread out. No one virtual world got higher than 14.35% of the total votes cast.
Unsurprisingly, Second Life is still the most popular virtual world.
241 readers (14.35% of respondents) have accounts on SL. A recent post on the Second Life Friends Facebook group asked people how old they were, and people also shared how long they had been playing Second Life. What is truly surprising is how much older the average Second Life player is than for most other virtual world platforms, and the length of time that they have been playing SL. It was not unusual to find people who have been using Second Life for 9, 10, 11 or even more years.
What is the secret to Second Life’s “stickiness”? In a word, it’s investment: investment of time, investment of money, investment in an avatar representation, and investment in community. A 2015 academic study by Aleksandra Przegalińska of Kozminski University in Poland looked at various active communities in Second Life (Goreans, Furries, and Tinies) and reported:
Second Life is the one of strongest currently known type of cultural, collectively negotiated constructions of virtual reality, and despite its old age (12 years), it is still a platform for interactions for a small but consolidated group of residents. In this paper I will make an attempt to discuss how certain Second Life communities remain strong despite the mediums overall decay. I will mainly focus at the relationships of the members of these successful communities with their avatars putting forward two categories: embodiment and engagement. To support my argument I will focus on case-studies of three significant and dynamical and fantasy communities in Second Life: Goreans, Furries and Tinies. As I will try to show, there are several relevant conclusions emerging from the ethnographic research conducted for the purpose of this article. First of all, avatars created within such communities also share particular common traits: they possess features that allow for stronger narrative and/or embodied identification. Secondly, “strong” communities usually put a lot of emphasis on managing communication and interaction among their members.
My aim is to investigate how a particular kind of avatar identities can fuel vividness of community despite the virtual worlds’ overall decay. I will make an attempt to understand what consitutes a strong virtual presence. For that purpose I will use two important categories: embodiment and engagement. As Second Life is already a very well documented space I will focus mainly on its current situation, describing communities that still exists there, and – to a certain extent – on its future. I will argue that two distinctive factors play a crucial role in understanding what being in Second Life in particular, and in Virtual Reality in general actually means: the first one can be located on the level of particular avatar and consists in strong identification with the character, both in an embodied and narrative way. The second one is related to relationship with other avatars within the community: common goals, intensive collaboration and produsage, and creating bonds of engagement. I will also try to show how these two levels: individual identification and interactions with others intersect and enforce each other.
Philip Rosedale himself still logs into Second Life, and so do 1 million other users each month. Despite strong external competition and poor graphics, Second Life – contrary to other older types of social media that lost the competition with more innovative ones and eventually closed down – is still alive and enjoys a faithful consolidated community of users. Linden Lab remains profitable and thus does not close the world down. External observers call it a virtual community in decay, [but] the Second Life community itself however does not feel that way and, interestingly enough, does not wish to migrate to new formats.
The last point is the most important. Many hundreds of thousands of people are quite content with their Second Life experience, and many have been using the platform for years. While they may create accounts on other social VR platforms/virtual worlds out of curiosity, they do not feel any strong need to make a wholesale move to any other metaverse product. They are happy where they are, they build unique avatar identities, they make friends and form strong communities, and they prosper by building and selling items to a large community of other avatars.
The multitude of OpenSim-based virtual worlds (mostly Hypergrid-enabled ones) were also very popular, coming second behind Second Life.
I do apologize for screwing up my original survey, by not lumping all the OpenSim-based virtual worlds into one category (I had listed Kitely and AvaCon as separate choices). This means that the total number of votes may be slightly higher than it would have been otherwise (for example, someone may have checked both Kitely and OpenSim). Like I said, this is hardly a scientific poll!
Also, quite a few readers selected “Other” in the reader poll, and then entered an OpenSim virtual world, instead of selecting the OpenSim category in the poll. Among the many OpenSim worlds people listed under “Other” were the following grids:
- 3rd Life Grid
- 3rd Rock Grid
- Craft World
- Discovery Grid
- Gevolution World
- Great Canadian Grid
- Infiniti Grid
- Lost World
- Party Destination Grid
- Tag Grid
- Virtual Highway
Please note that I have not included the former InWorldz grid among the OpenSim grid totals. This is because many people do not consider InWorldz a true OpenSim grid. Talla Adam, in a comment to another blogpost, has written about how the InWorldz software branched off from the OpenSim project:
Inworldz, by the way, is not regarded as Opensim anyway, although its roots are in OpenSim. InWorldz runs on the in-house developed Halcyon platform while OSGrid runs on current OpeSim.
So, totalling up the reader poll votes (not including InWorldz):
- OpenSim grids (e.g. OSGrid): 72
- Kitely: 63
- “Other” OpenSim grid responses (see above): 49 in total
- AvaCon: 9
- GRAND TOTAL: 193 (11.5% of poll respondents)
(As I said before, this might be a little on the high side because of my mistake.)
So OpenSim still seems to be a popular choice for many readers who, for one reason or another, dislike Linden Lab’s costs and/or policies with Second Life. Talla Adam recently wrote of the exodus from InWorldz when that world unexpectedly shut down:
What I like about the Opensim Metaverse is that it’s constantly changing while Second Life, being a walled garden with an increasingly restrictive and self-serving TOS, has begun to stagnate as it slowly declines. I would liken Second Life to a declining protectionist superstate while Opensim has become a growing collection of medium and smaller worlds with upwardly mobile populations that travel the Metaverse via Hypergrid, thus forming a greater market for virtual goods, services and entertainment.
This has been made more evident with the sudden collapse of the walled garden InWorldz grid just recently and the displacement of a its rather large population. What we are seeing from this exodus is that very few people are returning to Second Life or seeking out other walled garden grids like InWorldz. The vast majority are voting with their virtual feet and most are settling in the larger Opensim grids that are open to full Commerce and Hypergrid travel.
The “Big Five” social VR platforms
After Second Life and OpenSim, the next biggest section of the reader responses were these five newer social VR platforms:
- Sansar (149 readers, 8.87%)
- High Fidelity (145 readers, 8.63%)
- VRChat (101 readers, 6.01%)
- Sinespace (83 readers, 4.94%)
- AltspaceVR (68 readers, 4.05%)
Not far behind were a few more newer competitors
- Rec Room (54 readers, 3.22%)
- Somnium Space (53 readers, 3.16%)
- Bigscreen (35 readers, 2.09%)
- Facebook Spaces (29 readers, 1.73%)
- Oculus Rooms (26 readers, 1.55%)
- vTime (20 readers, 1.19%)
- TheWaveVR (16 readers, 0.95%)
Older and dead worlds
The following eight older and/or dead worlds still showed a surprisingly high level of user accounts created in their time:
- InWorldz (dead; 67 readers, 4.02%)
- Blue Mars (dead; 49 readers, 2.94%)
- IMVU (43 readers, 2.57%)
- Cloud Party (dead; 38 readers, 2.28%)
- Active Worlds (37 readers, 2.22%)
- There.com (29 readers, 1.74%)
- Twinity (16 readers, 0.96%)
- Virtual Paradise (8 readers, 0.48%)
Adult-oriented virtual worlds were not that popular
- Utherverse/Red Light Center (11 readers, 0.66%)
- Oasis (9 readers, 0.54%)
- LivCloser (0 readers, 0%)
And the blockchain-based virtual worlds still have few users signed up
- Decentraland (16 readers, 0.96%)
- Elysium VR (6 readers, 0.36%)
- Cryptovoxels (5 readers, 0.3%)
- Virtual Universe (5 readers, 0.3%)
- Terra Virtua (3 readers, 0.18%)
- VIBEHub (3 readers, 0.18%)
- Ceek (1 reader, 0.06%)
- The Deep (1 reader, 0.06%)
- Mark Space (1 reader, 0.06%)
- Staramba Spaces (0 readers, 0%)
So, what can these poll results tell us?
- People are genuinely curious about the various newer virtual worlds, and many have created at least test accounts on multiple platforms, to check them out. However, no single virtual world has an overwhelming market share in the metaverse platform market. (The closest is Second Life at 15% of poll respondents.)
- Second Life and Hypergrid-enabled OpenSim grids will continue to be the most popular and successful virtual worlds for some time to come. It will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to convince their contented, faithful users to make the move to other, newer metaverse platforms. If Linden Lab is smart, they will continue to plow resources into Second Life and reap the benefits of that cash cow.
- The “Big Five”—Sansar, High Fidelity, VRChat, Sinespace, and AltspaceVR—will continue to grow as they add new features and as more consumers slowly adopt virtual reality hardware over time (all these platforms also support desktop users). This VR uptake will take much, much longer than the original industry growth estimates, but it will come in time. All five platforms are very well positioned to take advantage of this shift, and they are the places to watch for exciting new developments.
- The next seven platforms chasing after the “Big Five”—Rec Room, Somnium Space, Bigscreen, Facebook Spaces, Oculus Rooms, vTime, and TheWaveVR—will likely also gain some users over time, but it will take quite a bit of hard work to get them to overtake the front-runners.
- Dozens of smaller virtual world platforms face a highly competitive marketplace, and a savage battle to capture consumer mindshare and demonstrate value. Many of these products will not succeed. In particular, adult-oriented virtual worlds (other than the entrenched Second Life) and blockchain/ cryptocurrency-based virtual worlds will continue to struggle to attract users and investors.
UPDATE: A commenter, named Samantha, makes a good point:
Interesting pool and article. However, talking about market share:
“no single virtual world has an overwhelming market share in the metaverse platform market. (The closest is Second Life at 15% of poll respondents.”
The problem here is that something that has been tried once to give a look isn’t something that is being used. Remember, you asked for who has an user account, not if we are using it. The above numbers tell us how many of your readers and people who answered did hear of a certain virtual world and gave it a try.
Which is true, and I should be more careful when talking about “market share”. This is a new and evolving market, and frankly all the “Big Five” metaverse platforms still have rather low concurrency figures, especially when compared to Second Life. Perhaps “market interest” or “market curiosity” might be a better term than “market share” at this point in time. Thanks, Samantha!